Spotlight on the Deauville Inn!
This week, we visited our friends at the Deauville Inn to check out their updated space and get some insight into what folks have to look forward to this summer.
The Deauville offers multiple in-house venues to enjoy food and drinks, and their space is the place to be this summer.
We spoke with Adam Modder, Vice President of Operations, Chuck Thompson, Assistant General Manager, and Paul Shust, the media director, who gave us more information on how the Deauville has adapted and what’s to come!
The Deauville Inn has an incredible history in the area, spanning generations.
It was built in 1881 by James P. Carothers, and is known originally as the Whelen Hotel. The original building was less than half of the size it is today, and mostly catered to whalers and traders who stopped by the area. In the 1920s, the site rebranded to become the Deauville Inn, and only a couple decades later, it underwent extensive remodeling after weathering through a hurricane in the 1940s. Tragedy struck again 1962 with the Five High Storm, which left the property neglected for nearly twenty years. Walter Carpenter, formerly a bartender at the Inn in the 1950s, purchased the Deauville with his family and reconstructed the property in 1980. Now, the Deauville’s new family includes Dr. Tim Fox, who bought the property in 2019, quickly making sweeping changes to improve the Deauville, even during a pandemic, no less!
The Deauville has always been a family affair, and now its found family includes the incredible staff dedicated to making the Deauville the best it can be.
Current owner Dr. Tim Fox has made the space nearly unrecognizable while still keeping much of the charm of the Deauville’s roots.
It’s become the ultimate destination to relax and play, with a number of dining options as well as dockside service for boats.
Vice President of Operations Adam Modder has been with Deauville since Dr. Fox took over. Working with Dr. Fox on the Deauville’s transition as a consultant was his first time out to New Jersey, as he originally grew up in Minnesota and spent fifteen years in Las Vegas experiencing some of the best dining and entertainment the city had to offer. He saw a unique opportunity with the Deauville, and Strathmere provided a change of pace for him and his family, so he joined the team full-time in October to help run the property and oversee operations.
“I think what we’ve built here is really special. I’m proud of what this place has become,” Adam shares.
In fact, Adam has his signature stamp on many aspects of the operations, including the beverage program and barside operations, and some of the design elements of the revamped space.
“I had a vision of this really cool oyster bar that was right on the water that you could sit out at and look at the view. Since we debuted that space, it’s now become one of our most popular spots,” Adam says.
Although they’ve made incredible strides, Adam shares that the Deauville team has a “never rest” kind of mentality that pushes them to seek out how they can continue to improve their space and make the experience better for both guests and staff.
The others we spoke to during our visit echoed this sentiment of a positive work culture, where everyone is committed to the same goals. Many of the staff who have been with the Deauville more than a few years are thrilled with the changes, and guests will be pleasantly surprised as well.
“I couldn’t believe it when I walked in here,” Sales Manager Evan confides. He first visited the Deauville in the early 2000s, and for anyone who’s visited in the past, the transition is shocking, in the best way possible. They’ve taken the best elements of modern design and accommodations to create a space that offers multiple venues for every type of activity or preference.
Of course, with their prime location on the bay, the Deauville welcomes boat traffic as well.
“The docks were one of our last big additions, so we put in brand new boat docks this offseason,” Adam says.
If you’ve written off the Deauville in the past, or never made your way to Strathmere to visit while you’ve stayed at the shore, this summer is the perfect time to change that.
Assistant General Manager Chuck has been with the Deauville for four summers now, giving him perspectives of both the former operations and the full view of the new changes.
“The previous owners were great, and they are part of the history of this place, but we’ve taken things to levels that could only have been imagined before,” Chuck says.
Although Chuck was initially happy to go back to bartending after a stint in management, Dr. Fox and his vision for the Deauville ignited a fire that inspired Chuck to return to a managerial role, and he’s loving the unique challenge the position offers.
“You could really spend two days, two full days here, and never have the same experience once. You could come down to the beach and play with your family, have a couple of cocktails to relax, and the next night come back with your in-laws and have a full fine-dining experience. Or you could come to the Pub and watch a Phillies game with your buddies, drink some local beers and have oysters and wings,” Chuck says.
So, about those local beers . . .
With this new transition came a focus of bringing in new, local brews on tap.
“I remember the first time we did tastings, and I suggested going for four and four – four old staples and four local beers. We change our beer menus seasonally and we have some great local partnerships with local breweries in the area,” Chuck says.
Adam helped offer an outside perspective to the curated beer list as well.
“I was in the tourist mindset at first coming out here,” Adam shares. “I thought, if I’m on vacation, what do I want? I want to see what’s out there. I want to experience what’s new, and many people are coming from other areas.”
When COVID hit, the Deauville team sought out some of Cape May’s brews as well. “It’s great because it’s an awesome product,” Adam says.
The property is massive, and it’s hard to get a true sense of the scope without seeing it for yourself.
Some of the different areas the Deauville offers includes:
- The Sandbar: a tiki-themed bar adjacent to the beach and lawn
- The Pub: complete with a darker aesthetic and large TV for game nights
- The Dining Room: an elegant dining experience with views of the bay
- Seafood Bar: complete with a culinary show prepared in front of you
- Sunset Deck: a casual breakfast and lunch spot with a large bar
- The Lawn: an elevated, grassy area with lounge chairs
- The Beach: featuring shaded picnic tables
- Dockside Service: pull into one of the dock areas or slips and order service directly to your boat
- Packaged Goods store: featuring wine and beer to-go from the menu as well as other sundries
The iconic white Deauville building contains the Dining Room, Pub, Sunset Patio, and Package Goods store, with the other areas surrounding the building on the outside. The Deauville currently offers around 35 boat slips for those visiting via the bay.
To help manage this vast space, each of the managers head up their own departments. All of the management staff worked their way up from positions in the restaurant and service industry, making them uniquely attuned to the needs of their staff. Their summer training happens over the course of several weeks, and the team is excited to begin to transition beyond merely a seasonal business.
“We’ve definitely had our best winter this past year,” Chuck says. “In the old days, there may have been fifteen employees still here in the off-season, but we had upwards of sixty or seventy this winter, so it’s really cool.”
For this summer, they have around 250 staff members to welcome the thousands of guests who visit during the summer months. They brought back over seventy core team members, and this expansion has allowed them to bring on three times as many new team members for the summer.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to elevate our staff on a daily basis, and we’re always looking to make the guest experience as best as possible,” Chuck says.
One of the ways they help integrate the experience between different sections is offering to-go beers of some of your draft favorites. “Everything here is about consistency,” Chuck says.
It’s certainly a delicate and nuanced task, offering different experiences and vibes that still have the same overarching presence of what the Deauville has to offer, but the team has exceeded expectations, welcoming guests back for their grand opening this past weekend.
In the future, you can expect the Deauville Inn to be the place to visit year-round, with events and activities to keep you entertained and coming back every day of the year.
This popularity means that the Deauville often experiences a wait for tables. To combat this, they created a special space.
“We just added in a new bar outside in the last two weeks so that people on the waiting list, which is inevitable during the summer, can have a space to get drinks and hang out,” Adam says.
In this space, they’ll offer local brews, seltzer, and ready-to-drink cocktails. People waiting for their table can enjoy the views from the bar and socialize with others while still getting a chance to appreciate the ambiance of the Deauville while they wait.
Another addition has been more hosts and team members throughout the property to help direct those who are visiting for the first time, or might find themselves a bit turned around exploring the incredible property.
If you’re familiar with Deauville’s social media, particularly their Facebook, you’ve likely come across some of media director Paul’s videography.
Paul started with the Deauville alongside Adam as a fellow consultant. His role soon morphed into a “swiss army position, with lots of different aspects to cover, so it’s a good mix,” he says. Paul is responsible for the Deauville’s Kitchen Family Series and the breathtaking drone shots of the property.
“We really want to put an emphasis on those things people care about when they come to a restaurant,” Paul shares. “It’s great when you go to a place and really get into the food and seek out more about it. Any time we can show people out on a boat, shucking some oysters, it’s a lot of fun.”
They have some great things planned for future videos as well.
“Now that COVID has started to lift, we’re doing a lot of interviews with locals about the Deauville, and we’re going to continue our food series by going to farms and more seafood places. It’s really cool to share that with people,” Paul says with a smile. “It’s part of sharing our personality with everyone, too. Just focusing on the area and what’s special about this place.”
Paul is particularly excited to get to know more about the Deauville’s providers and the people they get their ingredients from, as well as the locals and fellow staff members. “There’s no shortage of stories here, and we’re looking forward to sharing them with everyone,” he says.
Paul brings his expertise with drone filming and travel shots to the team, and they plan to fly small drones throughout the venue to show guests an up-close look at all of the different aspects on the property.
“Our goal here is to be the go-to destination of South Jersey, if not the state,” Adam says.
The Deauville seeks to offer the same luxury and fine-dining experience that many visitors from the city have come to expect, although in a completely new setting. “We’re trying to blow people away,” Adam says.
Even in an area full of gorgeous beach towns and eccentric food spots, the Deauville certainly accomplishes this.
During our brief time outside at a table by the water, we could see the boats pulling up directly to the docks, and people enjoying their food at tables facing the water.
A passenger from one of the boats even walked across the sand with a Cape May Brewing Company Crushin’ It clutched in one hand, because, of course, is it really a day at the beach if you’re not imbibing on some Cape May brews?
Our conversation with the team soon turned to food, because despite all of the other phenomenal changes the Deauville has made in the last two years, one of the aspects that stands on its own is the change in menu, courtesy of Executive Chef TJ Ricciardi, who joined the team in November of last year, and shortly brought on his number two, Sous Chef Dakota Curren, who had previously honed his seafood skills at Dock’s Oyster House and Harry’s.
Together, they round out the kitchen team with fellow Sous Chef Arron Milano.
“Chef TJ, his passion for his menu is like nothing I’ve ever experienced working with a chef. Every dish has a story behind it, and why he’s doing it. It’s really cool to watch,” Chuck says.
Chef TJ is so passionate about each of his dishes that he can talk about the new menu for hours, and Chuck jokingly mentions that a cutoff time had to be established for the menu portion of summer training.
When asked about some of the menu items visitors should keep an eye out for, the seafood and meat selections were both lauded.
“There’s two different seafood towers that the chef puts together with dry ice and they pour warm water over it as they serve it. You can see the dining room literally stop on a dime,” Chuck says. “A lot of times, the chefs themselves will bring it to the table.”
This particular dish is a hit with those who witness it firsthand, with many tables ordering it after watching it appear at a nearby table.
“I’m a big steak person,” Adam shares. “We have a Tomahawk on the menu now for two, which would have been unthinkable previously, and we have a bone-in filet, and the prime rib. It’s like a legit, big slab of Brontosaurus meat, and it’s really, really good,” Adam says.
“Is the prime rib always available?” Key Account Manager Richie asks.
“Yeah, it’s available every day after 4pm,” Adam says.
“They slow cook it for 23 hours,” Chuck says. “It’s juicy and it’s seasoned perfectly. It’s something we highly recommend.”
The menu is seasonal, with items changing twice a year, once for the winter and once for summer, adapting to local produce and vegetables that come into season.
“For example,” Chuck says. “The scallop dish, it had a squash puree throughout the winter and into early spring it changed into more of a local tomato salad under the scallops.”
Chef TJ is also a fan of changing things up for guests. “I know he wants to get very creative with the dishes and have something fresh for people all the time,” Adam says.
As for their cocktails and spirits to enjoy with your food, Adam shares that they wanted to have menus that spanned the gamut of offerings.
“Now that we’re heading into summer, it’s much more fun. There’s frozen drinks on the menu, they’re more tropical, and there’s a lot more fruit juices,” he says. Adam points to the Orange Crush cocktail as a popular favorite.
“We’re doing a Lemon Crush this summer as well,” Chuck shares. “Which is similar to a boardwalk-style lemonade. The bartender crushes the lemon and puts it right into the cup.”
At this point in our visit, Adam, Chuck, and Paul leave to grab food and drinks for the group.
As we’re chatting amongst ourselves at the table, Lynn, one of Deauville’s servers, comes up to us.
“Bar, bus, or server?” she asks.
We blink, unsure of how to respond. After a moment, it dawns on us that Lynn thinks we’re here as part of the new training, and we all share a laugh, admitting that we were visiting for the afternoon from Cape May Brewing Company to talk to the team.
Lynn’s eyes light up. “I have to tell you, one night I walked in a liquor store, and as I’m walking by grabbing White Claw, I saw your flavored seltzers. I didn’t see any that were refrigerated at the time, and I was in and out quickly, so I grabbed some along with my chilled White Claws. I sent Chuck a picture when I got home, because I opened up one of your mango seltzers, warm, and one of the White Claws cold for a taste test. And I really liked yours better! Yours was more flavorful, and I loved that,” she says.
We were thrilled to hear about Lynn’s love for our new crafted hard seltzers in person, and she’s looking forward to having more of the different flavors as well.
Adam, Chuck, and Paul returned to the table, graciously bringing out a few dishes for us to try, as well as a round of Tan Limes for the group.
Chuck brings out one of the seafood towers mentioned earlier, which prompts audible, appreciative gasps from the group. “It’s the smaller tower, too,” Chuck shares with a laugh.
The Corson, the smaller of the two towers, features three oysters, three clams, a half-pound chilled lobster, marinated mussels, shrimp ceviche, two cocktail shrimp, and a colossal crabmeat cocktail.
The other dishes include their Crispy Calamari, keeping it classic with cherry peppers, lemon, and spicy mayo, and the Beer Mussels, which are dutch mussels cooked with local IPA beer, calabrian chilies, and grilled bread. Today, they were cooked with Cape May IPA for the occasion, and trust us when we say that the mussels will have you digging into the shells to enjoy every last morsel.
The array of hefty pint glasses filled with Tan Limes are perfectly chilled, with a dish full of sliced limes to enjoy with the brew as well.
We mentioned the Deauville being the ultimate go-to spot this summer, and a destination venue wouldn’t be complete without live music and events, of which guests can expect a wide variety this summer.
“We have the Bands on the Beach series all summer, starting this weekend,” Adam says.
“We’re going to sprinkle in some events, and probably do a lūʻau sometime mid-summer,” Adam shares.
“There will also be a DJ every Sunday,” Chuck says. “From 12pm – 4pm on the beach.”
If you’re visiting in the evening and enjoying the Dining Room space, don’t forget to grab a glass of Chandon sparkling wine ahead of the Sunset Toast, a new tradition celebrating Deauville’s past and another beautiful day at the shore, where the space shares a collective toast with guests at sunset each day.
The Deauville will be a popular spot all summer long, so make your reservations (for indoor dining only), or swing by to put your name on the list and enjoy a few drinks at the outside bar while you wait.
Trust us, it’s worth it.
(We’d be remiss not to include this shot of the rose wall – perfect for a photo opp, as demonstrated by brew crew members Evan and Richie!)
In the meantime, make sure you keep an eye out for more of Paul’s incredible footage in the coming weeks!